Solskjaer sacked from Man United: who will replace him and who are the candidates?
Few were surprised on Sunday when Manchester United's board finally pulled the trigger on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's reign. But what happens next?
Following Manchester United's 5-0 Old Trafford mauling at the hands of their bitter rivals Liverpool it seemed as though the writing was on the wall for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. And although reports are that talks of replacing the under-fire manager intensified, the trigger was not pulled.
The end for Solskjaer: who's next at United?
A 3-0 win against Spurs suggested to some that there was more life left in the club's legendary super sub - although the London team had substantial issues of their own - but Atlanta struggles, City superiority, and finally Watford embarrassment eventually saw the inevitable decision arrive. Eyes immediately turn, therefore, and not for the first time, to who comes in next. Since the domination under Sir Alex Ferguson, United have tried various options, including the so-called 'proven winners'. They haven't won a league title since the Scot's final 2012/13 campaign.
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Removing the inexperienced Norwegian from the dugout later than many had expected meant that an early favourite to replace him, Antonio Conte, was snapped up by equally desperate Tottenham. With various other names in the running at the moment, generally those current out of work, the United statement muddied the potential outcome, pointing to another former player, Michael Carrick, moving into Ole's shoes temporarily, before a 'real' interim manager takes the team to the end of the season. So much can change in that time, including managers at other clubs being freed up or tempted away.
Together with Stats Perform, we take a look at some of the favourites, knowing fine well that a manager's stock can rise and fall quite considerably in six months. We also have to bear in mind that despite United having a squad of supremely talented players, there is a chance that they miss out on Champions League football, and that could see some of the preferred candidates choose another project.
The United contenders
Want some French glamour? Then free agent Zinedine Zidane could be your man. The Frenchman's second stint as Real Madrid boss came to an end in May and he remains available although has previously said that he doesn't fancy working in England, the language being one particular challenge.
Zidane won the Champions League three times in a row in his first spell as Los Blancos head coach and also claimed two LaLiga titles over his five years in the role. The 49-year-old is the record holder for most consecutive LaLiga away wins (13) and the longest unbeaten run in Spanish football (40 games) and United would surely see him as a significant upgrade on Solskjaer. He has also previously coached Cristiano Ronaldo, to great success, and might be the perfect candidate to get United's stars working together cohesively.
That all said, there was a constant doubt surrounding Zidane for his tactical decisions, many who watched and analysed his games closely feeling that he would often be saved from himself by some superstar players. I'd argue that given the last eight years, United need better than that.
Brendan Rodgers is less decorated than the previous two names on this list, but has a wealth of experience in the English game and has done an admirable job in his current post as Leicester City head coach, guiding the Foxes to their first-ever FA Cup last season as well as successive fifth-placed Premier League finishes.
He also claimed back-to-back domestic trebles in his two-and-a-half seasons with Celtic, but his association with United's rivals Liverpool may prove to be an obstacle, having come within two points of winning the Premier League in his second season on Merseyside. He proved at Anfield, and elsewhere, that he is able to improve players, no matter their level when he starts with them.
If he can be prised away from Leicester next summer, and the Reds connection can be ignored, this could be a very shrewd signing.
Pochettino has reportedly long been admired by United, being regularly linked with a move to Old Trafford in his five-year spell in north London, having taken Tottenham to a Champions League final in that time.
However, the Argentine only joined Paris Saint-Germain in January and signed a contract extension until 2023 in July, and is coaching a team that includes Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappé, not to mention the rest of PSG's star-studded squad.
This deal would certainly be a difficult one for United to pull off now, but the fact that they say the role is not until mid-2022, this could be the smart appointment.
Erik ten Hag
Ten Hag has impressed in his time in the Netherlands, winning two Eredivisie titles with Ajax and embarking on a memorable run to the Champions League semi-finals in 2018-19, knocking Madrid and Juventus out before falling going out on away goals to Pochettino's Spurs.
Ajax have been entertaining and effective under Ten Hag and are battling for another league title this season, beating expected rivals PSV 5-0 recently.
Like Pochettino, he would be unlikely to leave the club mid-campaign, which means that he, again, could be a reason the club has postponed a permanent appointment till next year.